By Chris Day
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A farm bill that separates agriculture programs from nutrition programs won't survive a trip through a House/Senate conference committee or White House, United States Department of Agricultural Under Secretary Edward Avalos said Thursday.
The Senate approved a farm bill that kept agriculture and nutrition programs together. It isn't nearly as reform oriented as the House bill. The House removed nutrition programs from the bill in order to pass agriculture programs. Nutrition programs account for nearly 80 percent of farm bill spending.
Avalos concluded a two-day farm and agriculture tour of Payne County on Thursday. He is the USDA's under secretary of marketing and regulatory programs.
"Agriculture doesn't have a strong voice in Congress anymore," Avalos said. "There has been an exodus from rural America to the city. There is a strong voice from the big population in the city. Separating nutrition from the rest of the farm bill, I don't see how that is going to happen. I really don't."
Congress creates and approves a farm bill approximately every five years. It failed to approve a farm bill in 2012, and the Senate and House versions of the 2013 bill are vastly different.
"The Senate bill, keeping them both together, is probably closer to what rural America needs," Avalos said.